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September 23, 1993 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1993-09-23

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

The Michigan Daily
To my landlord:
All of this talk about the Michi-
gan Student Assembly axing fund-
ing forthe Ann Arbor Tenants'Union
raises an important issue: landlords
throughout the city gouge their stu-
dent-tenants with impunity while
forcing them to live in Dickensian
slums. Unfortunately, an equally im-
portant, yet often neglected issue is
being swept under the proverbial
shag carpet: landlord abuse.
I know this because last year, as





HA , HA, HA11
Second City, does Motor City




, . '11

4.~- - 7

K '


the appointed legal counsel for my
housemates, I was personally re-
sponsible forblackmailing, malign-
ing, misleading and, though per-
haps only indirectly, killing my land-
The conflictbegan lastfall, when
the city housing inspector was about
to pay her annual visit. Our landlord
asked us a favor: to move all of the
furniture outof the attic bedroom,
which she casually informed us was
an illegal fire hazard.
As honest tenants, we could not
think of deliberately misleading a
city inspector. Instead, we chose the
high road: blackmail. Since the in-
spector was scheduled to visit the
next day, I found myself dialing the
landlord at midnight with a cheer-
ing section of overzealous
housemates behind me.
Our offer: we would be happy to
accommodate the request. But as
safety-conscious students, we
couldn't have our fellowhousemate,
Jon, put his life on the line every
time he rested his head on his pillow
in his attic bedroom. Not unless we
got something for it, anyway.
The main flaw in this tactic is
that when the city inspector made
her visit, she didn't particularly care
that our landlord was breaking the
law. The other flaw was that as soon
as we started talking tough, the son
of our landlord (our original land-
lord soon passed away) began han-
dling matters. This amounted to an
increase of about 200 pounds in net
landlord weight.
Despite his many fine landlordly
qualities, such as the ability to fix
most broken items in the house for
99 cents or less, we did not consider
our new landlord to possess a par-
ticularly astutemind. Soat thispoint,
we considered a variety of schemes
which involved tricking him into
thinking we were paying the rent
when we actually weren't. One
popular idea was to invite him to a
sit-down and place hamburgers in
front of him in order to exact rent
Eventually, we abandoned the
hamburger strategy in favor of the
more simple plan of unilaterally re-
ducing our rent. In a brief letter to
our landlord, we outlined the rea-
sons we were reducing the rent, and
made sure to do all of the necessary
math for him.
Seeking to end the conflict, he
agreed to lower the rent in return for
a promise that we would issue no
more demands.
But he had shown weakness, and
we smelled blood. Fearing he would
exact retribution and withhold our
substantial security deposit at the
end of the year, we refused to pay
our last two months' rent. We as-
sumed that for our embattled land-
lord, legal action would be too costly
and time-consuming.
It is fair to say that this action
was a mean, cynical, double-cross.
But we were pretty sure it would
A week later, we were receiving
subpoenas. We had placed our en-
tire faith in the bloated, inefficiency
nf the Ann Arhnr lo lvte.m and


,. }









etroit. It's called
Motown. It's called
the Motor City. It's
called Murder City.
And now it can be
called Mike Ilitch City. The pizza
king's latest venture is bringing The
Second City to town.
In 1959, entrepreneur Bernie
Sahlins opened the first Second City
in Chicago. In the 34 years since the
doors opened, the comedy club has
become one of the hottest draws in
Chicago. This is partly because its
alumni (see adjoining story) have gone
onto fame and fortune on "Saturday
Night Live" and on the big screen.
In 1974, a Second City opened in
Toronto and while it does not have as
impressive an alumni roster as its
Chicago counterpart, box office suc-
'cess has not yet been a problem. So
two years ago, looking for an invest-
ment and another draw to his Fox
Center, Ilitch listened to a friend rave
about the club and sent his son (Atanas
of rock fame) to Chicago to check out
the possibility of opening one in De-
troit. Last week, the 6.5 million dollar
facility opened. Besides the 300 seat

theater, the building also offers the
two-level 350 seat restaurant, Risata,
featuring Italian cuisine presented by
Mike Prainito, the executive chef at
the Fox theater and Mike McFarland
of The Beverly Hills Grill.
Over 750 comedians and actors,
both amateur and professional audi-
tioned to be members of Detroit's
Second City comedic troupe. In the
end, eight comedians, including one
understudy, were chosen.
While otherwise an eclectic group,
all of the chosen eight are from Michi-
gan. And two, performers Angela
Shelton and Andy Newburg, are U of
M alumni. While none of the mem-
bers of the talented cast is famous
yet, several have family ties to well-
known Detroit personalities. Shelton
is the daughter of Detroit mayoral
candidate Sharon McPhail, andJackie
Purtan's famous dad is radio
funnyman Dick Purtan of WKQI.
Helping her father on his shows has
been a strong background for the
comic. "I worked on my Dad's show
where it's 'make it up, and make it up
now,"' said Purtan.
Second City's first show, "Power

to the People ... Mover," will play
throughout the company's first few
months. Focusing on Detroit and its
people, the show has a wide target at
which to aim. One skit tells of a couple
from suburbia who are spending their
first days in their new Detroit apart-
ment. This (like many of the first
skits) is taken from the most success-
ful spots in Chicago. The performance
material will change every three to
four months to keep the show fresh
and to keep the audiences coming.
If Second City's first performance
was any indication, pulling in a full
house will not be a problem. Opening
night, Wednesday September 14,
packed in audiences from wall to wall.
The crowd who got the first live
glimpse of the new show was not just
comprised of lucky Detroiters - it
also included "Cheers" star George
Wendt, movie star and Chelsea local
JeffDaniels, Danny DeVito and Penny
Marshall (both in the area filming
"Renaissance Man"), as well as con-
troversial anchorman Bill Bonds. To
give Detroiters who couldn't make
opening night an incentive to check
the place out at a later date, WDIV

broadcast the performance locally.
Atanas Ilitch, the show's producer,
thinks that Second City will draw a
younger crowd due to the genre of the
comedy and the youth of the perform-
ers. "We're very young and it's very
exciting," he says. The average age of
the cast is 24-years-old.
While the prospect of good com-
edy in Detroit is both a boost for the
city and entertainment for its resi-
dents, Mike Ilitch's interest in the
cabaret is obviously not purely for his
own entertainment. The theater is situ-
ated next to his Fox Theater and adja-
cent toThe Gem Theater on Woodward
in the downtown area. Add Ilitch's
newest venture to his recent acquisi-
tion of the Detroit Tigers and Tiger
Stadium, and it becomes obvious that
he is trying to do what none before
him have been able to accomplish:
rebuild Detroit. Ilitch does not hesi-
tate to say that he hopes that his prop-
erties will combat the flight from De-
troit and bring people back to experi-
ence the positive aspects of the city.
"I feel the activity is going to pick
up," said the elder Ilitch, "I think
entrepreneurs are beginning to take

an interest in Detroit." Indeed, if Sec-
ond City's tradition of drawing subur-
banites into the city carries over from
Chicago, it seems Ilitch will not be the
only one in Detroit laughing happily.-
According toAlan Lichenstein, the
Nederlander Organizations director of
theater operations, Second City has
opportunity to succeed. "They're do-
ing a great job of marketing,," he said.
"I ran into son'tebody in a bar the other
night and he said, 'Oh yeah, I've al-
ready got my tickets for October 7."'
The advance sellouts may be a
great thing for the performers and for
the Ilitches, but last minute comedy-
goers will find themselves coming
out for a laugh and seeing nothing
more than the parking valets. At this
point tickets must be bought about a
month in advance.
So, if you're thinking of escaping
Ann Arbor for some well-needed
laughs, head to Second City. Just
make sure to call ahead for tickets.
Second City's shows run
Wednesdays, Thursdays and
Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 8:30
and 10, Sundays at 8. Cail 965-2222
for tickets.


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